Spiritual philosophy from my Guides.
Let Us Pray.
By Claire Edwards DSNU
I remember reciting the “Lord’s Prayer” as taught by the Christian faith as a child. I understood that everyone was saying the same words, the same speed, heads bowed. I didn’t understand the meaning or the philosophy behind it. I was taught it, as many, parrot fashion and simply that it was a prayer to God “as given to us by the Lord Jesus”.
When I was given a copy of the Gideon’s New Testament in my first week of secondary school I began to read it, particularly the prayers and psalms. I said them nightly. I did believe that someone or something would hear my sometimes silent, sometimes vocal prayers, and would be able to give me the help that I needed. My favourite was “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
I have said a variety of prayers over my life, those of my teenage years begging not to be bullied at school. Prayers where I tried to make bargains to ensure a favourable outcome for others or myself. Prayers asking for my understanding to be deepened. Prayers seeking forgiveness, and others expressing gratitude, faith and love. I have also said prayers of sadness and grief. Some when those I love have passed. Sometimes the passing has been sudden and others not so. Each time the prayers of grief were equally ones of confusion and at times anger and mistrust of the Divine Spirit that I call God. In the main, most have been made earnestly, respectfully and faithfully, and yet without any deeper consideration as to the practice of prayer.
When I did begin to give thought to what I am doing when I pray and how I do so, I realised that I have no recollection of any of my religious teachers ever educating me as to the different philosophies and practices of prayer. This includes the vicar who asked me to be an altar girl and taught my confirmation classes. It seems to be taken as read that we all understand why and how to pray.
Most know that prayers are ways to entreat for blessings or graces, such as forgiveness, mercy, wisdom and love. The word prayer has its etymology in the Latin word “precari”, which means to beg, implore, entreat.
But are we missing the chance to experience the closeness of God/Divine Spirit/ Creative Power in a more mystical and enlightening way?
We have different types of prayer, altruistic, supplication, gratitude and penitence. We have ways of expressing and practising them, mantras, hymns, incantations, spoken words and silence. There are also different philosophies and rationale behind the practice of prayer dependent on individuals as well as religions.
In some religions, humans are inferior to an almighty and wrathful God. As such prayers should be humble, highly reverential and altruistic. They are expressed solemnly, with a strict discipline to adhere to specific doctrines. Prayer times are mandatory and in some countries people who miss prayer time are punished.
In other faiths prayers are expressed through joyful and celebratory rituals, both public and private. The Hindu festival of colours known as Holi welcomes the coming of Spring. During this time Hindus playfully throw powdered paint in an array of vibrant colours at each other. To give two extremes for example.
The Assyrian mystic, philosopher and mathematician Iamblichus said in the 3rd Century A.D.
“Extended practice of prayer nurtures our intellect, enlarges very greatly our soul's receptivity to the gods, reveals to men the life of the gods, accustoms their eyes to the brightness of the divine light, and gradually brings to perfection the capacity of our faculties for contact with the gods, until it leads us up to the highest level of consciousness (of which we are capable).”
Iamblichus believed and taught that within all things there was a Divine Principle. A spiritual aspect due to all of life being created by the Gods. As such Iamblichus said that it was possible, due to the Divine Principle within a person’s soul, to become awakened so that it becomes conscious of the presence or illumination of the Gods through prayer. Prayer was considered to be both a pious and divine practice of power and creativity, whereby the Divine (within the human soul) communicates directly with the (transcendent) Divine.
Many Spiritualists have heard of the mystical experiences of other sources of spiritual inspiration such as Paramahansa Yogananda and Padre Pio.
Paramahansa Yogananda said that when we pray, we should not worry about the words that we use, that we should speak freely, as a child to its parent who demands answers. This is in part due to our not being the ultimate cause of our creation, but also due to the divinity within us.
One day, during the time my Grandmother was dying due to Motor Neurone Disease, I visited when something happened that terrified me, not for myself, but for what it meant for her. When I got home I sank to my knees by my front door, sobbing and shouting at God. Giving all my anger and my fears. My heart was breaking.
Suddenly I felt the presence of Spirit around me. Embracing me in what I can only describe as a soft peaceful and calm energy. And I heard the answer. I cannot express this moment in words, but it remains the most amazing experience to happen to me whilst praying.
I felt silly after but in no way did I feel that my prayer had been disrespectful. I was the child begging my Father for understanding and help. In that moment it was given.
We can pray in a church, a temple or we can pray whilst dancing or in the woods. The important thing is that we do not give rise to demands or expectations as to how the experience will unfold.
When we do we place limitations upon what may happen due to our understanding and comprehension being based in the logic and rationale of our material world and the “rules” of its reality.
Prayers are the most beautiful and individual way to communicate with the loving creative Spirit that caused us to have our life. A time when we can deepen our understanding in so many ways, and of course a time to share love, gratitude and healing.
But it is also the time for us to deepen that relationship individual to us with the loving source of our Spirit. To reunite with our true parent in whose loving embrace we eternally are. A time when we can sense our union with the Divine. A prayer is the opportunity for God to come as close to us as much as we allow it to happen.
So maybe the next time you pray, you could simply pray to know the love that is all around you, the love that is within you and the love that created you.
© Claire Edwards DSNU 2021